ELDON, Mo. – There’s no stopping 63-year-old Sammy Swindell.
While several race car drivers are retiring in their 40s or 50s, Swindell continues to climb behind the wheel of 900hp sprint cars without hesitation.
“It’s all I’ve ever done,” Swindell said.
The Germantown, Tenn. native is an original outlaw. He ran in the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series’ inaugural 1978 season, and since then amassed three Series championships, 394 series wins and has broken several series records.
He continued his more than 30-year sprint car career, racing with the World of Outlaws, April 12, at Devil’s Bowl Speedway in the No. 1 Thone Motorsports car — his ride for 40 to 50 sprint car races this year, which include several World of Outlaws races. Next on his schedule is the Midwest triple-header weekend at Lake Ozark Speedway on Friday, April 26, Federated Auto Parts Raceway, on Saturday, April 27 and Jacksonville Speedway on Sunday, April 28.
“It’s just, I love driving Sprint Cars,” Swindell said. “And the 410s are kind of the ultimate deal. We could go run a lot of other little shows, but you got to beat the best to know you’re that close, or that good. I’ve always not shied away from running with the best cars.”
There’s no slowing him down, and his son, Kevin Swindell, knows it.
In 2000, Sammy took a step back from racing to spend more time on Kevin’s career. But that still didn’t stop him from racing; and winning. He won his fifth and final Chili Bowl Midget Nationals win in 2009, and claimed several World of Outlaws victory after that time — his last Series win coming at Eldora Speedway in 2014.
Kevin suffered a spinal injury during the 2015 Knoxville Nationals that ended his racing career. While he supports his father’s racing habits, he does worry about him.
“A part of me wishes he would just quit and not hurt himself or just wear his body out to the point he can’t just relax and enjoy a real retirement,” Kevin Swindell said. “I think until we can find him something that can really consume his time, it’s gonna be hard to get him to slow down.”
Sammy Swindell said people have asked him when he is going to retire. His answer, “I don’t know.”
“You know, it might be one day when I can’t see as good, or I can’t do this, or I’ve got some kind of handicap deal, something that’s keeping me from being competitive or winning races,” Swindell said. “Well then that’s time for me to do something, kind of step back and maybe not do the driving anymore.”
He understands age is not a race he can win, though.
“It’s like, you know, there’s only so many (races) I want to do and can do,” Swindell said. “As far as doing a weekend or a couple of weekends, that’s fine. But trying to do this every day, every day, it’s definitely harder when you get older.”
He said he feels comfortable and capable of running about 50 races a year, compared to the more than 90 race World of Outlaws schedule. Not only does his age play a factor into that, but the budget of the team, too.